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Stephany

Apricots Are My Jam

ApricotsPrettyApricot season is here! The season is short, but these beautiful and versatile stone fruits are at their peak right now. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to have access to lots of different varieties, including Blenheim Apricots, which are one of the best for making jam. We’ve got Blenheims in the Markets right now, so it seems like a good time to share my recipe for Apricot Jam, along with our Cheese Buyer Anthea’s recommendation for some perfect cheeses to pair with it.

The beauty of jam is that the fruit doesn’t have to be perfect. Bruised, soft, unsightly or a day overripe–jam welcomes all fruits and makes them beautiful again. A mix of less-ripe and more-ripe fruits is good; less-ripe contains more natural pectin, and more-ripe contains more sugar, so the two balance each other out nicely. You can make a big batch of jam at the height of summer ripeness and put it away until the winter, then crack it open and take yourself right back to summertime. And jams are beautiful with lots of other foods, including yogurt, toast, pork, chicken, and cheese!

I asked our Cheese Buyer, Anthea, to try my Apricot Jam and recommend cheeses to go with it. She suggested fresh chèvre such as Andante’s, but also feels that any number of fresh, creamy cheeses would do well. She also recommends sweeter jams like this one with bleu cheeses (“Mold loves sugar,” she told me), such as Bay Bleu from Point Reyes. For a harder cheese pairing, try goat cheddar. Personally, I love sneaking a schmear of jam inside of a goat cheddar grilled cheese sandwich!

Simple Apricot Jam

This recipe is easy to scale up or down and adjust according to your tastes. This recipe uses the “noyau,” or almond-like inner kernel of the apricot, to flavor the jam. Amaretto and almond extracts are traditionally made using apricot kernels rather than actual almonds because the fragrance is much stronger. Other stone fruits share this quality, such as cherries and peaches, though apricots tend to be the most potent aroma. Just crack the pits open, and remove the little “almond.”

ApricotsRosesI recently made an apricot rose jam using this recipe, just added a few handfuls of organic rose petals at the beginning of the cooking process- they candy themselves and lend a gorgeous rosy color to the jam. Rosemary, saffron or lavender are also some of my favorite variations. You can adjust the sugar and lemon juice to make it either sweeter or brighter, depending on the sweetness of the apricots. You can process this in a traditional water bath to preserve it for the coming months, or it will keep for several weeks refrigerated.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb apricots
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar, divided in half
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

ApricotJamCloseupWash the apricots, and chop into roughly even pieces. Save the pits. Toss the chopped apricots in a bowl with half of the sugar. Set aside to macerate for at least 10 minutes, although up to 1 hour is ideal. This will start drawing out the juices and dissolving the sugar.

Place the pits in a clean kitchen towel, and fold it over. Use a hammer, mallet or other heavy object to crack the pits open. Remove the inner almond-like kernel and place one in each of your clean jars.

Place the apricots and their juices in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add the rest of the sugar, salt and lemon juice. Using a wider pot will make the cooking process faster, since a wider surface area will allow for the fastest evaporation of excess liquid. Place a few saucers in the freezer- you will use these to test the viscosity as the jam cooks.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a hearty simmer (you want it going pretty strong, but not so much so it is splashing hot sugar/apricot juice). Stir occasionally using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scraping down the sides periodically. It should take about 15 minutes after it comes to a boil to reduce down enough. Once the foam subsides, stir the bottom more often and keep a close eye on it. Be careful, it will start spattering once it thickens up, just turn the heat down a touch. Then, start testing it. Dribble a little bit of jam onto the frozen saucer and wait for it to cool down (you can put it back in the freezer for a minute or two)- this will give you an idea of how thick it will be once cool. Once it has thickened to your liking, turn it off, and ladle into clean jars over the noyaux. Seal and process or let it cool down and then refrigerate. Enjoy!


Celebrate Summer with Point Reyes Mozzarella!

PtreyesLogoSummer is here (can’t you feel the fog?!) and we’re thrilled to celebrate one of San Francisco’s summer’s stars: Point Reyes Mozzarella. This mozzarella has a special place in our hearts – we were the first retailer to sell this farmstead pasta filata back when the only other place to score a fresh ball was at the farmer’s market.

I remember the days when our wine buyer Trac received our tiny allocation of Point Reyes mozzarella (thirty balls every other week) directly from Point Reyes family member Jill Giacomini Basch as she headed home from the farm.

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The Giacomini family owns and operates Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company

But aside from that bit of nostalgia, why is this mozzarella special? And why do we still get excited to stock all these years later? Because it’s local, farmstead and cultured. The Giacomini family has a rich history in Point Reyes Station and has been dairying on their farm since 1959; they expanded their operations and began making cheese in 2000.  All of their cheeses are farmstead, meaning that milk comes from their own herd of Holstein cows and is transformed into cheese right on the property. Mozzarella is one of the newer additions to the Point Reyes cheese offerings. In a quest for great flavor, cheesemaker Kuba Hemmerling spurns the common commercial practice of relying on citric acid or vinegar to acidify the milk and relies instead on a process of culturing the milk to allow flavor to develop slowly, yielding a much more flavorful mozzarella.

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A fruity take on classic Caprese salad.

We all know that tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella are a great combination, but don’t feel limited by that classic trio. I love roasting peaches or nectarines and serving with fresh mozzarella and topping with a chiffonade of basil or mint. Or try it drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper.

At our Markets on 18th Street and Divisadero Street, you can discuss Point Reyes Mozzarella with any of our expert cheesemongers. Come by to admire the beauty and enjoy the incomparable taste of this true local favorite.


Zach Berg

All I Want! Sprocket and Manchego!

AllIWant3As a Cheesemonger at Bi-Rite Divisadero, I have access to an array of beers right across the aisle from the Cheese Department. One of the many fun parts of my job is developing pairings of my favorite cheeses and beers to complement and draw out their flavors. My current favorite combination is Sprocket Bier and Artequeso Manchego.

Sprocket Bier won an intra-brewery tasting at Stone Brewery, hosted and judged by their three top brewers. Similarly, the Artequeso Manchego was a standout among the exhausting list of different Spanish Manchego cheeses available to us in the Bay Area.  At Bi-Rite, our Cheese Buyer Anthea has worked to select the perfect Manchego for us–creamy and yet salty and crumbly. The beer is a dark rye with big toasty notes that are balanced by a crisp dry finis –a perfect foil for the rich sheep’s milk cheese. Together they create a perfect snack!


Spring Cheeses! Celebrate the Season!

Laychee

In the world of cheese, spring is a very exciting time. It’s marked by a feeling of renewal and by the arrival on our local farms of green grass and lots and lots of baby animals! This makes it a very special time for young goat and sheep milk cheeses. The pastures are verdant and the kids (baby goats) and lambs that were born in March are running around the farm. With babies comes milk, and as cheese-lovers we benefit from this “freshening” in our own way: with an abundance of green grass and rich milk, we’re in fresh cheese heaven.

Bollie’s Mollies

 

 

We’re thrilled to welcome back with open arms a couple of cheeses that have been seasonally unavailable for the last few months. Lambs and kids are abundant at Pennyroyal Farmstead in Bonnville, and we’re celebrating the return of a couple of their cheeses. Early in the season, watch for Laychee, a beautiful fresh cheese with the silkiest of textures, made from a blend of goat’s milk and sheep’s milk and perfect for an array of applications. It’s delicate, pleasantly lactic and spreadable, great for brunch or as a base for a delicious crostini topped with preserves or sweet fresh fruit. Or you could just enjoy it with a simple drizzle of honey and a spoon!  Bollie’s Mollies, another delightful offering from Pennyroyal that’s aged for four weeks, is a denser, more toothsome option. It has a lovely light gray rind, thanks to penicillium album mold.

Kenne and Liwa

In other exciting news, Tomales Farmstead Creamery is milking their ewes for the first time! When we went for a visit in January, their herd manager was training the pregnant ewes to line up for milking in the milking parlor. Though we’ve had Tomales Farmstead’s Kenne on the counter for the last few months, it’s now being made with a blend of goat’s milk and the first of their sheep’s milk, which gives the cheese a richer, rounder finish with a hint of lanolin. Their farmstead-mixed milk is also being used to craft Liwa, a fresh, hand-ladled cheese that has a fudgy texture and more substance to it than some of our other fresh offerings. Cheeses from Tomales Farmstead Creamery are delivered directly to us from the farm each week.

I’m also excited to introduce you to our newest producer-direct relationship! Golden Valley Farm was started by Mario and Sandra Daccarett, who worked for twenty years as dairy nutrition and management consultants. As their children grew, they wanted a line of work that was more inclusive of the family, and are now the only sheep dairy in the San Joaquin Valley. From February to December they milk 340 ewes, and their son Mario Daccerett, Jr. transforms this milk into a number of different cheeses in a range of styles. The first cheese that we will feature is the Yosemite Blossom, a beautiful cheese with a snowy white coast that is aged for about four weeks. Expect a milky and creamy texture with a delicate flavor. It’s just begging for some fennel salami!

Come by and ask for a taste of our favorite spring offerings! And stay tuned: come June, we’ll start to see some of the first aged, raw milk cheeses made this spring!


Not All Parmigiano-Reggiano is Created Equal

Did you know that Parmigiano-Reggiano is our best-selling cheese here at Bi-Rite Market?  There’s a lot of Parmigiano-Reggiano out in the world, but here at Bi-Rite we’re on a mission to celebrate our Parmigiano-Reggiano in particular–and remind ourselves that not all Parmigiano-Reggiano is created equal.

caldera house

Daniele’s house and workspace

For one thing, we know our cheesemaker’s name! Most of the wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano that we sell come from one farm and are made by Daniele Caldera. Daniele runs the farm, raises the cows, and also makes cheeses. The room where he makes cheese is right downstairs from the one in which he lives. It houses just three copper kettles and Daniele never makes more than six wheels of cheese a day. And (how fun is this?) ­–each day, Daniele bevels the wheels of cheese made the night before and mixes the cheese scraps with eggs for his breakfast. What a way to start the morning! Our wheels are aged for a minimum of twenty-four months, though usually they are closer to twenty-eight months. With a big wheel of this kind, a longer aging process allows for the development of deeper, more complex flavor.

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Click this image to watch a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano get cracked open right before your eyes!

Parmigiano-Reggiano’s status as our best-selling cheese allows us to buy it in whole wheels–these large beauties are 80 pounds!–and break them down at each store using the traditional Italian knives. Every week we look forward to Wednesday, when we crack new wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s a magical moment as the cheese splits and is revealed, exposing it to air for the first time in twenty-four to twenty-eight months. When you’re buying whole wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheese ages as long as it’s kept whole, and the quality of flavor from a freshly cut wheel is one of the most exciting things to a cheese-lover. In Daniele’s cheese this flavor is brothy and bright with notes of fruity pineapple, and the finish is long and deep.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a wonderful grating cheese and perfect with the arrival of spring’s first asparagus, but it’s a cheese too beautiful to be relegated solely to the role of an ingredient. Add a wedge to your next cheese plate and drizzle it with a little bit of aged balsamic for a decadent, hearty treat!


Simon

Asparagus is Here!

asparagus At Bi-Rite we love to celebrate local, organic crops, and one of the most exciting vegetable crops of the late winter and early spring is asparagus. Around this time of year asparagus gets highlighted in lush bunches and fanciful dishes at markets and restaurants throughout the Bay Area, and the shelves at both Bi-Rite Markets are no exception.

Asparagus is a flowering perennial that can be a tricky crop to grow – once it starts producing, it needs to be harvested every day so that the stalks don’t get too long. One producer who gets it just right is Full Belly Farm of Yolo County, California. Because we work with Full Belly, we are able to offer our guests extra-fresh asparagus from the end of February through May, which makes this the ideal time to stop by and pick some up.

Why is extra-fresh asparagus so exciting to us? Asparagus is high in dietary fiber and is a good source of Vitamin B, K and C.  It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities which make it a great cancer-fighter.  And in addition to being one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, asparagus can be prepared in many different ways. Try pairing it with other spring veggies like spring onion, peas and tarragon to make an amazing omelet. On its own, it’s perfect dressed with olive, grilled and topped with shaved Pecorino Romano.

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Beautiful asparagus and fresh Burrata proudly stand shoulder to shoulder at our Markets

But for a real treat for the palate, try pairing this excellent asparagus with the fresh Burrata available in our Cheese Department. This Italian cheese is a study in contrast in itself, combining the texture of solid mozzarella with a decadent, pleasing filling of cheesy cream. But when paired with asparagus, the combinations of flavor and texture are enthralling, and since the asparagus we have in right now has superior flavor and texture, the combo is all the better. You can find asparagus and Burrata placed conveniently side-by-side in the produce sections of both of our Market locations. Come by and let us show you how healthy, fun and gratifying this pairing can be!


Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Flowers, Bubbly, and Heart-Shaped Cheese!

Need some ideas for a fun and romantic Valentine’s Day? We’ve got a selection of Champagnes, cheeses and flowers that are sure to bring a smile to the face of someone special. All of the offerings mentioned below are available at both our 18th Street and Divisadero Market locations.

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We’re highlighting two excellent Champagnes this week. Champagne Guiborat Brut Tradition NV, a great Champagne value, is produced by the Fouquet family, who have farmed a small vineyard in the Grand Cru village of Cramant since 1885. Now in the hands of 5th generation owners Richard Fouquet and his wife Karine, Tradition has a touch of brioche on the nose accompanied by notes of white flowers and green apple.

Champagne Guy Charlemagne Reserve Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs is from a small grower located in a Chardonnay-rich Grand Cru villages of Mesnil and Oger, known for their rich limestone soil. This 100% Chardonnay pleaser has a lightness and finesse with touches of lemon and fresh nuts and notes of warm bread. For the perfect Valentine’s pairing, try our special A Toast for Two Champagne and Cheese Combo, which places this lovely Champagne alongside Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam cheese; its decadent, buttery creaminess is complimented perfectly by the complex intensity and long finish of the Champagne Guy Charlemagne. Try them together for an unforgettable treat.

photo 3You can also pick up a heart-shaped wedge of the Cowgirl Creamery’s Heart’s Desire, which is available just once a year just for Valentine’s Day. This special cheese will arrive fresh at both Markets on Valentine’s Day! Don’t miss this annual treat! Try Heart’s Desire on its own, or try our other featured Valentine’s cheese, the Andante Heart-Shaped Rondo. Not much is sexier than this cheese, an elegant blend of rich Jersey milk and tangy goat’s milk and crafted by one of our most talented local cheesemakers. Adorned with dried herbs and peppercorns, the heart-shaped Rondo is as beautiful to behold as it is sensuous to share.

FlowerBouquetsAnd to complete the picture for Valentine’s Day, don’t forget the flowers. Come by on Friday, February 14th to get a custom bouquet or floral arrangement made by our in-house florists. Bouquets of sustainable, organic and local flowers start at $25 and locally-grown roses by the stem will be $3 each. On Valentine’s Day you can get your flowers hand-arranged out in front of both of our Markets; our florists will create something special while you pop into the Market to get some chocolate, cheese and Champagne. We’ll have your Valentine positively swooning!


Jason Rose

Our Christmas and New Year’s Menu is Here!

Christmas menuBeginning today, December 20th, our house-made Christmas and New Year’s menu will be available at Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street and Divisadero. And this year, you can also pre-order everything you need online! Just place your order, select a date and time for pick-up, and you’re all set! Or call us or stop by to place your order. We look forward to seeing you, and are here to help with any planning or cooking tips you may need!

Bi-Rite’s Christmas and New Year’s Menu 

House-Brined and Oven Roasted Diestel Turkey Breast

Bi-Rite’s San Francisco Clam Chowder

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Fresh Sage 

Bourbon Sweet Potato Mash with Candied Pecans 

Horseradish and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes  

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots with Bacon Maple Syrup

Roasted Delicata Squash and Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Roasted Mushrooms

Balsamic-Roasted Red Beets and Carrots with Citrus Segments

Cranberry-Tangerine and Honey Relish

Wild Mushroom and Zinfandel Gravy

Chestnut-Apricot Bread Stuffing

Horseradish Crème Fraîche with Fresh Chives

prime ribOur Butcher’s choice this year for the ideal centerpiece for holiday meals is prime rib. We’ve selected prime rib from Five Dot Ranch. Grass-fed and grain-finished, this beautiful beef has just the right amount of marbling for a buttery mouth feel and texture. We’ve also got a wide selection of California-raised poultry including turkeys, geese, ducks, and more!

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Winter is also a perfect time to enjoy cheeses. We’ve selected five favorites, along with an array of perfect pairing options, to delight your dinner guests and party-goers. Plus, we’ve created two special bundles just for Christmas and New Year’s that are only available online! Try our Tradition Reigns: Celebrate with Stilton pack to enjoy the classic pairing of English Stilton and port.

No holiday dinner would be complete without decadent, festive, magical desserts!BiRite_Holiday-400

Bi-Rite Creamery has taken tradition to a new level this year with our gorgeous Bûche de Noël, featuring chocolate roulade with milk chocolate butter cream, chocolate glaze, and decorated with adorable meringue mushrooms, pistachios, and sparkling candied rosemary! Don’t forget the ice cream! Our seasonal favorites are back, including Candy Cane, Pumpkin, and Eggnog.

Let us help you select the perfect wine for your meals and spirits to warm you! With vintages that pair perfectly with main courses, festive bubbly and single-barrel bourbons from our favorite family-run distilleries, our hand-selected wines, beers, and spirits are sure to delight.

We look forward to helping make this season memorable for you, your family and friends as you gather and celebrate. Happy Holidays!


Perfect Cheeses for Your Holiday Celebration

The wedding adage about “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” always struck me as a bit silly. But I was recently musing on the phrase while celebrating a friend’s Big Day and thought, “Wow – that’s actually pretty good advice for starting an ideal cheese plate!” Just grab something perfectly aged, something fresh, something borrowed (European tradition, for example) and something…bleu. I’m always looking for delicious cheeses that highlight variety in flavor and texture, and the cheeses selected for our 2013 Holiday Guide are all perfect for holiday gatherings.WholeBoard1

If there’s one local favorite that everyone will love, it’s Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam. This rich, buttery cheese is made by our good friends at Cowgirl using organic Straus Family Creamery milk. It’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser and you really can’t go wrong bringing it to a holiday party.

Redwood Hill’s Cameo, made with local goat’s milk, is a truly elegant show-stopper on the cheese board. Created in nearby Sebastopol, Cameo is studded with cracked black peppercorns and lemon verbena. This lovely cheese is soft, silky, and delicious.

BonneBoucheA favorite among Bi-Rite cheesemongers is Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery. Slightly tangy and beautifully yeasty, this cheese is given its distinctive blue/gray hue by its ashed rind and is accented with a mild minerality.

A wedge of Bleiki Alpkase, imported from Bi-Rite’s very own adopted Swiss Alp, celebrates everything traditional about old-world cheesemaking and brings a fruity, slightly nutty flavor profile to your spread. This cheese is a Bi-Rite exclusive and is not available anywhere else outside of Europe!

And for your “something blue,” you can embrace English-style Christmas tradition with the iconic Stilton. This cheese from Colston Bassett, aged to perfection, is creamy yet crumbly, with notes of wet stone and hay.

If you’re having trouble choosing among these excellent cheese plate options for the holidays, we’ve created two Christmas Cheese Bundles – one for cheese-lovers to share with friends and party-goers, and one for the cheese enthusiast who wants to celebrate holiday tradition. Both pair our favorite seasonal cheeses with some perfectly-matching snack and drink accompaniments. Pre-order them online!

Cheesemonger’s Choice: Party Pack – $39.99CheesemongersChoicePairs

One 8oz round Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam

One 4oz round Bonne Bouche

One 10oz jar of Harvest Song Sour Cherry Preserves

1 box Raincoast Crisp Date and Almond Crackers

StiltonBundlePairs (2)Tradition Reigns! “Celebrate with Stilton” Bundle – $44.99

½ pound Colson Bassett Stilton

One 375ml bottle of Niepoort 10-year Tawny Port

One 5oz jar of Bi-Rite Holiday Nut Mix

The Cheesemonger’s Choice is sure to impress, while the “Celebrate with Stilton” bundle brings together the classic and beloved combination of blue cheese and port wine. Whichever way your taste and palate run, we’ve got your cheese needs covered this Christmas. You can pre-order our featured cheeses and bundles online, or come in for a taste! Happy Holidays!


Jessie Rogers

Bi-Rite’s 2013 Holiday Guide: Delicious Menus, Unforgettable Gifts, and More for a Perfect Season!

Welcome to the Bi-Rite 2013 Holiday Guide!

Our Chefs and Buyers have perfected our house-made menus and stocked our market shelves with the most exceptional locally-grown, sustainably raised, and artisan-produced products available. We look forward to helping you plan unforgettable meals and find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list.

Happy Holidays!